In traditional pompous and overzealous French style, Thérèse Desqueyroux (aka Thérèse) tells the story of a free-spirited and very wealthy Thérèse in 1920. She marries her neighbor Bernard Desqueyroux, who is also wealthy, but grows bored of him and their life on the vast estate. She yearns for the culture of Paris, and that’s when things start to get sticky. A scandal, a poisoning, severe depression, and forbidden love all fall into the mix of Thérèse’s life.
The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Francois Mauriac which was published in 1927. Claude Miller directed the movie which was originally released in France in 2012, and has been to fourteen different film festivals. He’s best known for The Best Way to Walk, A Secret, Garde a Vue, and Alias Betty. While the film is expertly shot and visually rich, Thérèse also gives its audience a window into the shifting political and social stigmas of 1920’s France. Thérèse is a woman trapped, ahead of her time, and truly unhappy with her marriage and with her life. This forces her to make a drastic and irreversible decision.
Audrey Tautou (who also acted in Amelie and The Da Vinci Code) portrays Thérèse and accomplishes a deep, internalized character study that some have mistaken as stiff. Her concentration on the character’s inner turmoil is so complete that even the audience feels helpless in sorting out her thoughts and desires. The work is confident, grounded and enjoyable while the characters are deeply thought out and well defined.